Jezebel Olympics Day 4: How to Achieve the Best No-Makeup Makeup Look


The cool girl is able to look runway-ready exactly one instant out of rolling out of bed. She maintains a dewy glow, even in the dead of winter, and all she needs (or all she’ll tell you she needs) is a “dab of chapstick.” The cool girl is somehow free of blemish, scar, hyperpigmentation, dryness, or oil slick—in other words, free of the torment of being human with skin—and she doesn’t even appreciate it! She doesn’t even know what she has!

In fact, what she likely has, is a perfected technique for no-makeup makeup: the complex art of applying 1,000 various products to your face, with the end result of looking like you’ve applied none. For Monday’s competition, our Olympians were challenged to achieve the best no-makeup makeup lewk. Deadspin’s Samer Kalaf judged for style (could he tell they were wearing makeup and how much of it?) and I judged for technique (how many products did they use? how complicated was their routine?). The performances were highly admirable.

Aimée Lutkin, Team Franzen:

Aimée’s routine, in her words:

I washed my face and put on Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma serum, Sheiseido eye cream, an Earth Science almond-aloe moisturizer and vitamin E oil on troubled, flakey spots where chin hairs grow. You may not consider this part of the makeup process, but without it, my face would fall off.
I almost never put on full makeup because of the constant peeling outer layer of epidermis around my nose, mouth, eyebrows and chin. I don’t own a primer—but I SHOULD. So I just moisturize very well; it’s IMPORTANT.
On top of that I used my Smashbox Master Class Palette: Lighting Theory set.
I used three color correctors from the set: green for blemishes and blotchiness, lavender for sallowness, peach for discoloration and dark spots.
Then I used Glossier Light Stretch Concealer on top of all those color corrections because that’s what I think I’m supposed to do. On top of that I placed Glossier Light perfecting skin tint, then I layered on their Puff Cloud Paint to add back in all the color I’d spent the last fifteen minutes hiding on my cheeks.
I then took the highlighter from my palette and put it strategically on the cheek part of my under eye, along my bow bone and on my cupid’s bow and the line of my nose.
[For my eyes,] I again turned to my Smashbox palette and availed myself of their white lady nude shades: “Sand” as a base, “Totally Nude” in the crease, and “Almond” in the eye corner
I used Gimme Brow to brush out and thicken my eyebrows, and some mascara on my upper and bottom lashes. I also used a white Stila liquid eye liner on my lower lid line to make my eyes seems more open and POP.
On my lips I used velvet matte lip pencil from NARS called Get Off.

What Judge Samer Kalaf thinks was done:

Possibly some kind of blush on the cheeks, maybe a shampoo/conditioner that adds volume? Aimée’s hair looks really nice.

Judge Joanna Rothkopf’s thoughts:

The Smashbox palette is an advanced, impressive product—Lutkin is the only competitor to color-correct with this degree of accuracy. I am also impressed by the use of the white Stila liquid liner; she achieved a no-eyeliner eyeliner look which I covet.

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, Team Wings:

Julianne’s routine, in her own words:

After receiving clarification from the commissioner that applying a full skincare routine for the Before photo was not tantamount to doping, I: washed my face with Botanics Hydration Burst Dual Action Cleanser and applied Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Eye Cream, Innisfree 9 Solutions Reactivating Serum, Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum, and Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Gel. I topped it off with Belif Moisturizing Bomb; if you think I look ragged here (I do; it was 7:45 AM, okay?) you should have seen me before I fell into a product k-hole.
Obviously, to get the no-makeup makeup thing going, a girl needed some help from the Many-Faced God. I started out by smearing NYX Gotcha Covered concealer under my eyes to obscure the bags; I like it cause it’s moisturizing and doesn’t crack or accumulate in my wrinkies. Followed that up with Nars Soft Matte concealer around my nose and on my acne scars, as well as the weird scabs that are on the bridge of my nose and I don’t know how they got there. Then I applied Sephora 10-hour Perfect Wear Foundation (buildable!) with a damp beauty sponge; the internet told me that’s how you keep it from looking caked on. After an eyelash curl, I swiped on Innisfree’s Skinny Microscara in Brown; it seemed too micro in the selfie, though, so I topped that off with a swipe of Urban Decay’s Troublemaker Mascara. On my cheeks, I used my finger to apply Stila Convertible Color Lip and Cheek Cream in Lillium as a base, then blended in a bit of Fenty Match Stix in Ridiic to give me more of a glow. I lined my brows, very lightly, with Maybelline Brow Drama Pomade Crayon, then added more because it was too light and my brows are sparse (can someone tell me if applying castor oil does in fact make them grow or is that an internet lie?). For this effortlessly clean eye shit, I primed with NYX Lid Lacquer in clear and then used my finger to pat on on two taupe-y shades of Makeup Forever Eye Shadow in Milk Tea and Cappuccino, from the limited edition 30th Anniversary Palette. On my lips, I used Cover Girl Farewell Feathering clear lip liner and then dotted a SMUDGE of Milk Lip & Cheek stain in Quickie, a nice berry. After that, I tried to perfect the skin by dotting on Fenty Match Stix in Bamboo (where NECESSARY) and set it all with NYX Dewy Finish Setting Spray. I look only marginally better than before!!!!
Number of Products Used (not including skincare): 14
Cost: Approx like 500 dollars or more!!!!!

What Judge Samer Kalaf thinks was done:

“Lipstick, tying her hair back, possibly eye shadow. About the eye shadow, I’m not sure whether that’s the reflection off the glasses.”

Judge Joanna Rothkopf’s thoughts:

I am generally wowed when people apply foundation so skillfully that I can’t tell via some sort of powder-y or cake-y finish, but that’s just what Escobedo Shepherd has done here. I applaud the sheer number of products, the application technique (thank yew for using a sponge), and the subtle use of bold stains that result in a look that screams “I’m full of life but also chill about it.”

Madeleine Davies, Team Football:

Madeleine’s routine, in her own words:

Makeup For Ever HD foundation; NARS concealer under the eyes and around the nostrils; Glossier Boy Brow in brown on the eyebrows and lashes; taupe and white eye shadow from Smashbox on the eyelids; Glossier Cloud Paint in “Puff” on the cheeks; mix of Sephora brand luminizing drops and Peter Thomas Roth 24K Gold Prism Cream on cheekbones, brow bones, inner corners of the eyes, and bridge of nose; Milk Sunshine Oil also on cheekbones, brow bones, and bridge of nose; Sugar “Rosé” tinted lip balm on lips.

What Judge Samer Kalaf thinks was done:

“Tied a bandana around her head, possibly put something on her cheeks and forehead? You know when you took an SAT and had too many consecutive answers that were the same letter? I’m getting that feeling again.”

Judge Joanna Rothkopf’s thoughts:

I love this eye shadow technique—Davies’s lids look somehow matte and glowy. I also love the careful application of highlighting products (the luminizing drops, 24K Gold Prism Cream, and Milk Sunshine Oil); she looks both wet and dry in the best way.

Prachi Gupta, Team Beer:

Prachi’s routine, in her own words:

This is not at all my normal makeup routine, which is one tenth of this list and somehow looks like far more makeup. But as I understand it, the “no makeup makeup” look is more or less about tricking people into thinking I have naturally flawless skin, so that’s what I focused on the most. I relied mostly on sample size products I’ve picked up from itinerant Ipsy subscriptions and Sephora, and tried to use as many products as possible for sake of competition.
For my skin, I applied a dime-size amount of Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer in Radiance with Hyaluronic Acid on my skin and spread it with a wide, flat brush (I do like this sample and would buy it!). I have hyperpigmentation and brown skin, so to even out my skin tone, I used a combination of foundations to avoid looking washed out with a grey or yellowish tint. First, I rubbed Bobbi Brown Corrector in Dark Peach under my eyes and as a spot concealer on my face. Then I put a few dabs of Nyx Total Control drop foundation in Caramel and L’Oreal True Match in Classic Tan on my skin and blended that in. I still don’t know how to contour properly, but I then attempted to do so by brushing Sephora’s Matte Perfection Power Foundation in Warm Toffee under my cheekbones, on the top of my nose, and along my jawline and chin. I dabbed a little bit of Benefit Watt’s Up! highlighter on cheekbones and inner eye with my fingers, and then put a warm shade of Pacifica Coconut Blush on the apples of my cheeks with a fan-shaped brush. Finally, I brushed Benefit’s Get Even face powder in No. 03 across my T-zone or wherever I see unwanted shine. Skin = done!
On to the eyes: I rarely use primer or eyeshadow, but it helps for this competition, so on it goes! Using my finger, I spread Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion on my upper eyelids. A few months ago, I bought the Huda Beauty Rose Palette eyeshadow palette because it is very pretty. However, I have no idea how to use it. I went with the most muted shades and used Desert Sand, Musk, and Amber eyeshadow on the middle and upper lid and crease in my brow. I applied Nyx Epic Ink Liner on my top eyelids and filled in my brows with Nyx’s Micro brow liner in black. For my lashes, I applied Tarte Opening Act primer mascara and then Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes mascara in black, which I also use to set my brows. For my lips, I put on some classic Chapstick with a few dabs of Lasting Finish by Kate lipstick in Rosetto, a lipstick I just discovered at the bottom of an Ipsy bag before embarking on this competition. And then, just to add another product to this insanely long list, I swept the invisible MUA Microfinish Powder across face with a brush.

What Judge Samer Kalaf thinks was done:

“Brushed her hair over to one side, put on some lipstick, maybe added mascara though I’m leaning towards thinking those are her natural eyelashes. These are the only things I feel confident about commenting on because I can see them firsthand. Eyelash observation comes from me being brown and having a family trait of strong eyelashes.”

Judge Joanna Rothkopf’s thoughts:

I am loving! this! contouring! talk! Thank you someone for contouring, a skill I certainly do not possess! I love the commitment to primer, the commitment to using a wide combination of products to achieve a streamlined look, and the actual use of Chapstick, a cool girl staple.

Overall, each competitor used an enormous number of products and managed to make our judge think they used only one or two—perfect scores all around. That said, it comes down to who used the most products (skincare excluded, apologies) to achieve such a low-key look. Congratulations to the winners.


Gold: Prachi Gupta, Team Beer, 17 products

Silver: Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, Team Wings, 14 products

Bronze: Aimée Lutkin, Team Franzen and Madeleine Davies, Team Football, 9 products.

Current Standings:

Team Wings: 3 gold medals, 1 silver medal

Team Football: 1 gold medal, 1 silver medal, 2 bronze medals

Team Beer: 1 gold medal, 2 silver medals, 1 bronze medal

Team Franzen: 1 silver medal, 1 bronze medal

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